The military will be looking into Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr.‘s threats against a reporter he has accused of supporting communist rebels in penning a report about those accused under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, the new military chief, said Parlade, who heads the Southern Luzon Command, does not speak for the armed forces whose designated spokesperson is Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo.
Parlade claimed earlier this week that the news report of Inquirer.net justice beat reporter Tetch Torres-Tupas was “fake” and that it showed she was providing aid to “terrorists,” referring to communist insurgents.
Torres-Tupas’ story was about two men from the Aeta indigenous minority who were the first to be accused under the anti-terrorism law. Junior Ramos and Japer Gurung asked the court to join petitioners before the Supreme Court seeking to declare the law unconstitutional.
The two respondents have claimed they were tortured into admitting being members of the New People’s Army—a retraction which, if proven, would nullify their admission as it was made under duress.
Torres-Tupas’ report was not distinct from those of other media outlets’ articles about the Ramos and Gurung’s motion.
Still, Parlade dropped hints of a possible lawsuit against Torres-Tupas under the very law she was reporting about—the Anti-Terrorism Act.
Parlade is also the spokesperson for the controversial National Task Force to End Communist Armed Conflict or NTF-ELCAC, a Malacañang-backed group previously condemned for red-tagging civilian organizations, thereby risking their security and stifling their grievances against government policies.
He said Torres-Tupas sourced her report from New York-based Human Rights Watch and independent media outlets Kodao and Bulatlat, both of which the NTF-ELCAC earlier red-tagged as propaganda machines of the armed communists.
How Sobejana reacted
Sobejana, the military chief, said Parlade’s remarks would have to be validated first. “We will talk about it and present to the public whatever we are able to gather,” he said in an interview with ANC.
Sobejana did not elaborate on the nature of such validation, which could be an informal information gathering about Torres-Tupas herself.
He did refer indirectly to the nature of Parlade’s remarks. “We should exercise due diligence para sa ganon makapagbigay tayo ng magandang serbisyo sa ating mga kababayan. We should not hurt anybody unless he is an enemy of the state,” Sobejana said.
“We have to really properly identify the enemies of the state as what I said so that walang collateral damage and so on. So rest assured na magiging deliberate kami sa aming mga ginagawa,” he added.
Sobejana, in another interview with CNN Philippines, bared his objective to destroy local terrorism during his six months armed forces chief.
“My focus now is going after the real threat–the communist terrorist group as well as the local terrorist groups,” he said.
Media groups back Torres-Tupas
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the Justice and Court Reporters Association, journalists covering the justice beat, denounced Parlade for hinting to sue Torres-Tupas over her report.
The NUJP said Parlade might not have read the report due to incorrect details in his allegations.
“Torres-Tupas was simply writing about the fact that the petition was filed and recounting the allegations made in that petition,” it said.
The JUCRA likewise inquired whether Parlade was suggesting the rest of the group of justice reporters are supporters of terrorists.
“Should we all wait for a threat from Parlade, too? Is the general suggesting that justice reporters are supporters of terrorists,” it said.
Inquirer.net also issued a statement that affirmed its support for its journalist and condemned the military official’s allegations.
The news website “takes vigorous exception to the apparent red-tagging of our reporter and expresses alarm over Parlade’s attempt to sow fear, stifle dissent and curtail her right to make truthful and objective reports.” — Catalina Ricci Madarang